Gaurav Chandak is Founder and Director of mobiActivation, a mobile application design and development company that is focused on creating disruptive solutions in healthcare, supply chain, collaboration and communications markets. With 35 team members based in India, South Africa and Australia working on developing innovative mobile application products.

Gaurav and his team in Mumbai have unique experience designing mobile apps for first-time smartphone users. Gaurav himself started designing UI/UX for the financial services market in 2006, before the first iPhone hit the shelves. To his clients, mobile applications and smartphones were new territory.

Later, mobiActivation worked with agriculture companies to develop apps to help deliver information to rural farmers in India with whom they could only communicate at certain times of the day. By sending information at critical times in the crop cycle about seeding, fertilization, pesticides and harvesting, mobiActivation helped the farmers improve their operations and earn more revenue.

Designing Apps for the Next 3B Pilot

farming app mobiActivaiton

Early prototype, farming mobile application

 

With the perfect combination of experience and complete alignment with Next 3B’s global mission to financially empower women through smartphones, Gaurav and mobiActivation stepped up to develop a custom mobile app for our Odisha Pilot.

Of course, beyond content & literacy challenges, Gaurav notes that there are challenges due to the Indian telecommunications infrastructure being less developed than in the West. A lack of network connectivity across rural areas that requires a different approach. Without a consistent Internet connection apps must be able to work offline without compromising on the quality of the content and experience.

Gaurav explains, “We can’t simply borrow applications from the US market and implement them in India. Communication disruptions or low bandwidth connectivity should not limit the user experience.”

Mobile Apps in Action

mobiActivation travelled to the site of our first group of smartphone users to work with them and Trickle Up, our last mile NGO partner who oversees training on the ground. Gaurav describes the process of observing how people explain things and communicate with each other as critical to designing an app that will serve them well. It is important to ask questions, see how they are living, counting and doing financial transactions to design an app that will provide value for them.

mobiActivation prototype

Prototype, bamboo measurement system

To illustrate, Gaurav recounted the story of how he learned that people in our pilot location measured the fields with a 5’ length of bamboo. When it came time to design the app, mobiActivation was able to adapt this practice to the smartphone by including dynamic ‘counting sticks.’ This feature mimics the practice of hand-measuring the size of the land using bamboo sticks and presents it in a way that is relevant to the end users.

This feature is part of the mobile application developed by Gaurav’s team that will help the women with farming. The app was developed with the collaboration of Trickle Up and gives them steps to follow from choosing crops to harvesting, guiding them through the entire lifecycle. Daily notifications are timed with their actual seasonal farming schedule and the application offers tips on the materials that they should use including how much water, quantity of fertilizer, which pesticide, etc. As Gaurav said, “It’s a complete package for a professional farmer.”

Challenges in Adoption

Of course, not everyone will embrace technology when presented with it. Having worked with many first-time smartphone users, Gaurav says that when resistant users understand and believe in the benefits of their new smartphone, they make a U-turn in attitude. In his experience, adoption of new technology is increased when there is a very short learning curve. “Because if the learning curve is long they lose patience, and the cost of training cost is high,” he noted.

“When I see them using the application and it changes their lives, it motivates us to do more. The smile on their faces is the most valuable thing.” About working with our Next 3B team of partners he says, “It enriches our knowledge. It’s a journey.”